As a child of the ’80s who grew into an adult who still adores animated TV, women superheroes, and sword and sorcery, I don’t know anyone who was more excited about Netflix’s She-Ra and the Princesses of Power than me — and boi was my hope ever rewarded! Noelle Stevenson‘s remake of the short-lived but much beloved cartoon series is a brilliant homage to the original Gal Pals of Etheria and an absolute masterclass in feminist storytelling. There’s gender equity, legitimate racial diversity, body diversity, a variety of gender presentations, and so much casual queerness I could hardly believe it. It’s timely (women joining forces to combat an evil, indoctrinated civilian army spreading terror across the land) and fun (horse turned “Horsey” turned talking unicorn), and VERY GAY (please see my presentation below).
She-Ra is really Adora, a teenager who’s grown up in the Evil Hordak’s army, being fed anti-princess propaganda every day of her life, training to captain a battalion that will conquer Etheria once and for all. Her surly best friend Catra has been by her side (well, right behind her, really) the whole time. They’ve been competitive but never really at odds with each other, until they stumble across two members of The Rebellion — the teleporting Princess Glimmer and her best friend Bow — and a glowing sword that speaks to Adora and asks her to fight for the honor of Greyskull. Adora stays and finds out, immediately, that she’s been brainwashed by the Horde. Catra bounces. The first season follows them as they do a gay push-pull gaily with each other, about loyalty and abandonment and power and gay affection and gayness and good vs. evil and gay things. Catra makes some new friends that help her plot revenge and Adora makes some new friends as she travels the land tying to rebuild the Princess Alliance (which is made up of princesses from other regions who control different elements and manifest different powers).
The original She-Ra was conceived as a way to capitalize on He-Man‘s popularity and sell action figures to girls. She was a surprisingly feminist badass, don’t get me wrong — but Mattel wasn’t in it for the storytelling. Many of She-Ra‘s episodes were aired out of order or not aired at all, to introduce as many characters (and therefore toys) to the audience as quickly as possible. She was conceived as He-Man’s sister and then promptly forgotten and scrubbed from his series when hers was inevitably cancelled from the mishandling of both her show and her toy line. Her history is maddeningly careless. Stevenson sure does rectify that! She-Ra and Catra and every single princess is fully realized, with clear backstories and motivations, meaningful connections and blooming relationships. Even their individual domains have their own personalities!
Really, there’s no way to overstate how brilliantly Stevenson has honored the original series while molding this reboot in her own image. It’s so clear she was adamant about trying to scrub toxic masculinity, gay panic, racism, and honestly even heteronormativity from Etheria. It’s obvious that she’s well-versed in the discourse, aware of where other TV shows, especially animated ones, have succeeded and failed in pushing the conversation forward.
I’m going to write a deeper dive on the first season once everyone’s had a chance to watch it (I don’t want to spoil any of the joy for you!), but in the meantime, I hope you’ll take the time to scroll through this presentation I have put together called She-Ra Is The Gay Agenda.
My favorite thing about this remake is it’s obvious Stevenson knows what it’s like to be a fan. Not only of She-Ra, but just a fan. Her queer fandom roots go way way way back and she clearly hasn’t forgotten them. This is a show hand-crafted by someone who knows the transformative power of loving a story and wants to spread that feeling as far as she can.
I’ve watched the first three episodes and I love it so much! Adora/Catra is going to become a huge fan ship I can feel it! Their tag is going to blow up on Tumblr and AO3. I’m good at seeing these things. The moment the casting news came out that Katie McGrath was cast as Lena Luthor I said that she and Kara would become a massive ship. LOL
Can someone please tell me where I can find this to watch I’m in the uk. Is it Netflix/HBO/Prime/Sky?
Nice one Sally!
Two episodes deep I can safely say this is a keeper
I was a biiig He-Man fan as a kid, but dismissed She-Ra, largely BOTP, but I think I also had deep reservations about the dude sidekick’s moustache.
Genuinely tempted to check this out and then curse the youth of today for having things so much better.
I am off on Friday and plan to binge it.
This is a different, fluffier and younger version of the 80’s She-ra. I read comparison reviews but you cannot compare it. It’s its own show. The lead characters are likeable, even the bad ones. Thumbs up for sure.
This is my Xmas and Noelle Stevenson is my Santa.
Excellent timing on this post. My son wanted to watch it tonight and I vaguely remembered seeing the headline this morning so I let him. Hooray for indoctrinating small children into feminist messages early!
I am halfway through episode 1 and I could not be more excited! I loved the original She-ra and Noelle Stevenson’s reboot is genius! Also, I think Bow is voiced by the actor who plays Junior on Blackish.
I just finished the Princess Prom episode and it might be the gayest shit I’ve ever seen. I also kept pausing it to squeal over cameos among the background characters.
For any Steven Universe fans, Catra is voiced by AJ Michalka, aka the voice of Stevonnie!
Oh, I thought Catra was voiced by Shelby Rabara (Peridot)!
I finished the season in two days. Loved absolutely everything about it: the diversity of the characters, the dialogue, the animation and colours… I’m a sucker for upbeat shows about magical girls!
I absolutely loved this show!!! I’ve pitched it to literally anyone who will listen. The voice acting is so, so good, and Catra is like, an instantly iconic anti-hero. I can’t wait to see all the fan work this inspires!!!
There was a lot to like about She-Ra, but I think my favourite part was how she grew when she transformed. There was a feeling of strength and power about her. It was great.
I have rooted for noelle since I first binged “nimona” while it was a webcomic. (Yes, I realize that sounds more-hipster-than-thou…) but good queer comic fangirling ftw, am I right?
i started watching this today, i’m enjoying it so much. ugh catra/adora tho!
i never watched she-ra or he-man growing up, but it doesn’t seem to matter. this show is so good and the animation style is fun. :)
As a super fan of the original She-Ra who dressed as her for Halloween when I was 6, I was skeptical of this remake even though it’s in great hands with Noelle Stevenson. So I’m glad to read such great reviews! I haven’t had a chance to start watching it yet but my 9-year-old has already finished the whole thing and given it her “I’ll watch it again with you” stamp of approval. It’s on the agenda for later today. :)
I love it so much! I love Bow’s gentle masculinity and the faces he makes and the matter of fact way Spinnerella and Netossa were clearly a couple. Also Mermista is amazing!
I have one complaint/confusion though. If Angela is an immortal being why doesn’t she remember the ancients and know how to use their tech? And if she post dates them who created her and why?
catra in a tux with an untied bow tie forever and ever amen
also she-ra’s deltoids
Heather, just wanted to say that this pushed me into watching it – and I love it SO MUCH. I can’t wait for your more nuanced commentary! Seriously, I’m watching all the episodes again. Pretty sure there were a few tears when Adora transformed for the first time.
So far, this show’s better than the original, and it’s too bad it’s ending this year, but I suppose that five seasons are enough.Great work, Noelle and everybody involved.
These shows are not what children should be watching. My daughter was expecting the She-ra I showed her as a little child and this remake made her stop watching the show.